Motions for Summary Judgment: How Florida’s Big New Change Affects You

On May 1st, 2021, Florida signed into law some major changes regarding their approach to Motions for Summary Judgment. These changes mean Florida now follows the standard used in federal practice (again, previously not the case for Florida). These changes are significant, and signal good news for Asset Managers, Loan Portfolio Managers, Private Lenders and Investors with Florida properties in their portfolios.

The entire purpose of a trial is for a Judge or a Jury to decide what the facts of a case are. In some situations, the facts of a case are not disputed. This makes the entire point of a trial unnecessary, which is where a Motion for Summary Judgment enters the picture. Cases consist of three phases, and typically the last phase is the resolution of the case – whether it is through settlement, trial verdict, or a Motion for Summary Judgment being granted.

Summary Judgement asks for a Judge to look at the undisputed facts of the case and apply the law to them without having to go and proceed to an actual trial. The party who believes the facts are in their favor can submit a Motion for Summary Judgment in the hopes of saving the time and expense related to a court trial. The opposing party then has an opportunity to respond.

In Florida, the opposing party previously just had to say there were “genuine issues of fact” disputed as a way of fending off a Court granting the Motion. Even if their stance was obviously weak, it was simple to take the possibility of Summary Judgment off of the table. After the May 1st change in the standard, the opposing party has to submit evidence that would actually hold up or “evidence” the facts they allege support their defense and would serve to defeat the motion.  This serves to raise the bar on the Defendant to actually offer up meaningful evidence to support their claim.

This is a big change. It makes it much easier for moving parties to get a Motion for Summary Judgment granted. It also makes it more difficult for those that are opposing it. They will no longer be able to just stand back and claim a “small amount of evidence” as a reasonable objection to the Motion.

Opposing parties have to show enough evidence that a reasonable jury would grant their side of the argument. In fact, in a key Florida Supreme Court case, a great quote makes the obvious point: “A party opposing Summary Judgment must do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts in order to defeat a Summary Judgment Motion.” You need hard, admissible evidence to oppose and defeat this motion now.

This is great news for Florida businesses, and especially for our clients: Asset Managers, Loan Portfolio Managers, Private Lenders and Investors. We know you experience the frustration of the timeline and the associated expense of getting to the finish line. In that department, things are looking up.

If you are an Asset Manager, Loan Portfolio Manager, Private Lender or Investor with non-performing Florida property, contact Reyes Law Group today! We can help you with your portfolio. At the Reyes Law Group, we not only defend your investment, but preserve your rights and value your trust… every single day!

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Reyes Law Group

Reyes Law Group represents clients in a multi-disciplinary legal practice involving real estate transactions and litigation with a “footprint” that covers the State of Florida. Over the firm’s first 10 years, Reyes Law Group has closed over $100M in commercial closings, representing buyers and sellers in contract negotiations, due diligence, and the related title review and policy issuance related to closings. In litigation, the firm has commercial litigation experience focused on prosecuting or defending claims such as breach of contracts, partition actions, trade secret violations, and breach of non-competes. However, our firm’s MAIN FOCUS is assisting asset and loan portfolio managers, investors and private lenders with a “ 4-PILLAR APPROACH” to the legal challenges they face with non-performing assets: 1) LOAN WORKOUTS; 2) COMMERCIAL FORECLOSURES (across the State of Florida); 3) COMMERCIAL EVICTIONS; and 4) REO COMMERCIAL CLOSINGS.30+ years’ legal experience means - WE CAN HELP!

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